HC Deb 02 August 1888 vol 329 cc1263-90
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (Mr. GOSCHEN) (St. George's, 1264 Hanover Square)

In rising to move the Motion which stands upon the Paper in the name of my right hon. Friend the First Lord of the Treasury, and Notice of which I gave on his behalf yesterday afternoon, I think I shall best consult the convenience of the House by confining myself strictly to making the Motion. We have now been engaged for three days—Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday—upon the Committee of this Bill, and the whole of yesterday afternoon was occupied in discussing one Amendment, which was, no doubt, an important Amendment. In making this Motion, I am anxious not to say anything that will lead to controversy. I think that during the time at our disposal between the present hour and 1 o'clock in the morning, we shall be in a position to deal with the remaining Amendments to the Bill which have been placed upon the Paper, especially in view of the fact that the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Parnell) has stated that the most essential parts of the measure have already been disposed of. There are, no doubt, some Amendments of some importance upon the Paper; but I believe that they can receive full and adequate discussion between now and 1 o'clock. I beg to move the Resolution I have referred to.

Motion made, and Question proposed That at One o'clock a.m. on Friday 3rd August, if the Members of Parliament (Charges and Allegations) Bill be not previously reported from the Committee of the whole House, the Chairman shall put for with the Question, or Questions, on any Amendment or Motion already proposed from the Chair. He shall next proceed and successively put forthwith the Questions, That any Clause then under Consideration, and each remaining Clause in the Bill, stand part of the Bill. After the Clauses are disposed of he shall forthwith report the Bill, as amended, to the House. From and after the passing of this Order no Motion, That the Chairman do leave the Chair, or do report Progress, shall be allowed."—(Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer.)

MR. T. P. O'CONNOR (Liverpool, Scotland)

said, that the conduct of the Government in proposing this Resolution was in accordance with their general conduct in reference to this Bill. The Resolution amounted to a decree that the greater part of this most important Bill should be passed without any discussion whatever. The Chancellor of the Exchequer was at fault with regard to the statement of the hon. Member for Cork, which he said amounted to an admission that the most essential portions of this Bill had been disposed of. To that assertion he gave the most unqualified contradiction. Neither directly nor by inference did the hon. Member for Cork make such a preposterous statement. There were many parts of the Bill remaining to be discussed which were of the greatest importance. The earlier part of the Bill had given rise to a prolonged and animated debate, and the remainder of the Bill would give rise to an equally prolonged and animated debate. The object of the Motion was to put the Bill through the House by force, and he might almost say by physical violence. The right hon. Gentleman might almost as well adopt the policy of Cromwell, and turn all the Irish Members out of the House. He protested against this Motion as being an act of brute force and brute violence on the part of the Government. He begged to call the attention of the House to the manner in which the Government had put forward this Motion. Why had the discussion upon the Bill been prolonged? As had been stated yesterday, if the Bill had been in the form in which the Government had promised they would introduce it—if the Government had been true to their own pledges and promises, the Committee upon the Bill need not have occupied more than two hours; it would have gone through Committee with as little friction as that with which it had gone through its second reading. The discussion in Committee had been so prolonged because the Government had promised them one Bill and had given them another. The Government had promised the Irish Members an opportunity of clearing their characters from certain foul charges and aspersions, and they had now taken from them the opportunity of doing so. These charges against Irish Members had been circulated in the form of pamphlets by the First Lord of the Treasury by the million, and they had been repeated by the highest Law Officer of the Crown, and there was scarcely a single occupant of the Benches opposite who had not gone down to his constituency and had promulgated the same calumnies. It had been said by hon. Gentlemen opposite and by the Attorney General that those charges were of the gravest and most serious character ever brought against a body of men. Yet, when they were charged with murder and complicity with murder, when those charges had been repeated all over the country, when they had been made the stock-in-trade of their political opponents, and after they had been promised an opportunity of meeting those charges, the Government shuffled from their promise, and offered an inquiry into an organization and political movement. Such proceedings as these could not be too strongly condemned by any impartial Member. Hon. Members from Ireland accepted this Bill on the pledge of the Government that it should give them an opportunity of meeting definite charges made against them or against persons intimately associated with them. That promise had been departed from. He did not wish to anticipate the action of his hon. Friends; but he thought it would be their duty to take no notice whatever in their discussion of this Bill of the force and violence practised upon them by the Government. For his part, he should discuss every Amendment brought before the Committee with just as much advocacy as it deserved, in utter disregard of the limit of time imposed upon them by the violence and force of the Government. He did not know what the result might be; but certainly several parts of the Bill would go through the Committee undiscussed. It might be that the Committee would not reach the important Amendment as to whether the letters should or should not be singled out and set forth as demanding inquiry by the Commission. In these circumstances the Commission might be asked to do everything but the right thing. He cast the responsibility on the Government, and he thought hon. Members by-and-bye would be able to adequately appreciate the justice and fair play of the political foe who first uttered foul charges and then ran away from the chance of having them investigated and examined.

MR. R. T. REID&c.) (Dumfries,

said, he could not be surprised at the Government taking this course. The Government had departed from the old custom of the House of having any regard to the opinions of the minority. The time might come, the time would come, when hon. Members opposite would be in a minority. Then he trusted that those who were in the majority would show more consideration than was being shown at present. At the end of this Bill there was a clause which might not come up for discussion at all on account of the limitation of time. It was the clause having the effect of saving The Times harmless from any action. The Committee would not have an opportunity of discussing that clause. The Bill would probably be forced through by the Government without the discussion of a clause which would prevent hon. Members from Ireland from ever bringing an action against The Times for the clearance of their character, which would save The Times harmless from the consequences of uttering what, if untrue, were about the most foul and deliberate libels ever uttered.

MR. T. M. HEALY (Longford, N.)

said, he must congratulate the Government on having moved this Motion. Last year he went to the manager of Hansard and asked him to put in the Index of Hansard the number of times the closure was moved. That would form for future purposes a valuable series of precedents, but he was bound to say that no precedent of so great value had been set as in the Motion now before the House. There was, of course, a precedent for the course taken last year on the Coercion Bill, where the Government were able to say that the lives and liberties of millions of people were dependent on the passing of coercive legislation in the interests of law and order. But now for the first time with regard to ordinary legislation the Government created this important and, as he conceived, most precious precedent, and that with regard to a Bill which a fortnight ago the Government declared to be of so little importance that a negative reply from the hon. Member for Cork would be sufficient to induce them to withdraw it. Hon. members would find in Hansard under the letter "P" a record of all the closure Motions. He presumed the present Motion would be passed with the aid of the closure; but he conceived that nothing could be of higher value for a future Parliament of England than that after three night's discussion a Minister should come down to the House and propose with regard to a measure of the most important and far-reaching character a Motion of this kind. He congratulated hon. Gentlemen opposite. They were sharpening a most valuable tool which by-and-bye would be placed at their own throats. Such a Motion as that proposed amounted, in his opinion, to nothing less than a direct censure on the Chairman of Ways and Means. In the first place, it took no note of the character of the Amendments. Some Amendments necessarily must be of less importance than others. The hon. and learned Member for Dumfries (Mr. R. T. Reid) had suggested an Amendment of the most far-reaching importance with regard to the protection proposed to be given to The Times. There were Amendments compelling the putting in the forefront the letter of the hon. Member for Cork, and as to the place where the Commission should sit; there were Amendments of the most natural and most reasonable kind as to the circumstances in which the libels were published and were to be vindicated. All these Amendments the Government included in one common catalogue of ruin at 1 a.m., although it was in the power of hon. Members opposite with regard to any Amendment they thought trivial to rise and move, if the Government had refused it, that that Amendment be now put. It was right that the country should understand that hon. Members were moving those Amendments with all the power at the disposal of the Government which the closure gave—a closure which had been applied with ruthlessness and recklessness. Those hon. and right hon. Gentlemen who in 1882 spent 20 nights discussing the closure never had it applied to them by the right hon. Member for Mid Lothian (Mr. W. E. Gladstone). The Government, however, obtained the closure, and in one year after they got it they applied it 100 times; then they reduced the majority from 200 to 100; and now, having got a closure which they could put by a bare majority, they were not satisfied with that. Because a dignified and impartial officer of the House, a Member of the Government Party—the Chairman of Ways and Means—entertained views as to what was fair and what was impartial, as to the importance of Amendments, as to their relative position, and as to whether time ought fairly to be allowed for their discussion, he received, so to speak, a Ministerial kick, a Ministerial slap in the face, by the mover of this Motion. There was to be an Autumn Session. What was the necessity for an Autumn Session? Were there more important Bills before the House than this? He saw on the Orders for that evening a whole series of Bills for which there was to be an Autumn Session. He did not see why he should not move that the same treatment be accorded to the Burgh Police and Health (Scotland) Bill, the Court of Session and Bill Chamber (Scotland) (Clerks) Bill, the Tithe-rent Charge Recovery and Variation Bill, Presumption of Life (Scotland) Bill, East India Officers Bill, Public Works Loan Bill, and the Bann Drainage Bill. This would be a means whereby hon. Gentlemen opposite who intended to shoot grouse, might not only shoot in peace long before the present sitting was likely to end, but they would save themselves from the Autumn Session as well. He was really astonished at the moderation of hon. Gentlemen. He was greatly afraid, however, that at some future day they might be succeeded by Gentlemen not quite so moderate or so Constitutional. He regarded this Motion as another sad proof of the fact that English Members in regard to Irish Members were prepared to treat them in exactly the same spirit as when the Red Indian danced round his victim at the stake. There was not an hon. Gentleman opposite who would not "bolt" any proposal that the Government made if they thought they could thereby prejudice the Irish Party. What should he say of hon. Gentlemen professing Unionist principles? They might not like this proceeding, but they could not dissent from it. The noble Lord the Member for Rossendale (the Marquess of Hartington) might not like this proceeding, but, like the man in mediæval stories who had sold his soul to the Evil One for any temporary advantage, he was bound to carry out to the full the indenture he had signed with his blood. The Government were quite safe at any time in making any proposal they pleased, well knowing that they could whip the Unionists at the cart's tail after them. Hon. Gentlemen of the Unionist Party might get up and say they approved of that proceeding of the Government. They might say so, but they could not say anything else; and he should retain in respect to that his own liberty of appreciation. He trusted that the country would see what the consequences were of the present alliance of Her Majesty's Government. If the Liberal Party were in power the Tory Party would join the Irish Members in making high-flying protests against action such as that. But the Ministerialists, reinforced by the Liberal Unionist Party, were enabled and encouraged to do things which the Tory Party, had it twice its own strength, would not dare to do. The Government did not despise the right hon. Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), but they had his weight to an ounce. The Government knew that the declarations made by that right hon. Member in favour of limiting that inquiry were purely platonic, and that when they proposed to put on the closure they could rely on his solid avoirdupois in the Division Lobby. In order to test the amount of trust which the Government and the Liberal Unionists placed in the impartiality of the Chairman of Ways and Means, he would suggest that in the present Motion the qualifying words should be inserted, "If the Chairman of Ways and Means sees fit." He submitted that that would be a proper Amendment to the Motion. Then, in regard to the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for Dumfries dealing with the question, if The Times was proved to be a forger, as they now knew it to be a liar—[A laugh.] The hon. Baronet the Member for North Antrim (Sir Charles Lewis) laughed at a statement of that kind. Why did the hon. Baronet not go into the witness-box when charges of corrupt practices were made against him at Derry, and——


, interposing, said, that the hon. and learned Gentleman was not speaking in any sense to the Question.


said, that was because he was interrupted by the laughter of the hon. Baronet. He held that the Chairman of Ways and Means should be enabled to show his appreciation of the relative importance of the Amendments proposed to the Bill, and to allow such adequate time for their discussion as he deemed fit. The Chairman was himself once a writer in The Times, and therefore his impartiality could not be contested by the opponents of the Irish Party. The Irish Members, and certainly he, speaking for himself, who sometimes incurred his censure, cordially, nevertheless, acknowledged the impartiality of the Chairman—though in saying that he did not desire to fetter himself for future comment—and he thought that, in regard to a Gentleman of such high position as the Chairman, it would be only proper that the Government should show some semblance of respect for the decencies of the situation by accepting the suggestion which he now had the honour to make, and which he hoped that some other hon. Member would move as an Amendment. Then he would ask why the words "1 a.m." should be retained in the Motion. Let them substitute "1 p.m." and give more time for discussion. He asked hon. Gentlemen opposite, who in their private relations were, no doubt, men of honour, and even of tenderness, why in a matter of such grave importance they should treat the Irish Members in that manner? Let them assume if they liked that they were all guilty of murder and a thousand other crimes, and he asked whether the eminent lawyers sitting opposite would abridge the trial of a prisoner by declaring that at 1 o'clock the jury must find a verdict against him. Was it, then, reasonable to put the whole Bill at a given hour?

MR. BRADLAUGH (Northampton)

said, he was not quite sure how far the Motion of the right hon. Gentleman followed previous forms, but he was sure that on one occasion, when a similar Motion was carried, the course was essentially different. If the Motion, as he understood it, were carried, before the Amendments to the first clause were finished the Chairman would put the question on any Amendment or Motion already proposed from the Chair, and would proceed immediately afterwards to put the Question that any clause then under consideration and each remaining clause should stand part of the Bill. The effect of that would be that the Committee would be unable to pronounce any judgment whatever on any one of the questions that were raised by the other Amendments. That was a most monstrous proposition. He would suggest to the Government that they would not save much time by it, because he would feel it his duty to exhaust every Parliamentary means of getting the decision of the House on the two great legal questions which he would raise. He should again raise the questions involved in his Amendment on the Report stage of the Bill. The precedent to be made by the Government was dangerous and might be utterly disastrous, and it justified him in charging the Government with degrading Parliament. He remembered an occasion on which the Opposition went out of the House on a Closure Division; but he remained in his place while the Speaker went care-full through all the Amendments on the Paper to the Bill then being considerd, calling upon each Member in turn to move his Amendment. It was possible, therefore, to have taken the verdict of the House on every Amendment, whether it was debated or not. Without using any menace or threat, he would warn the Government that they were making a dangerous precedent, which might be abused in a time of political strain by an accidental majority. What would the Ministerial Party say if they were then gagged as they would now gag the Opposition? His Amendment was on a question which had been carefully guarded by the Courts in every fashion, and the Government now proposed to set it aside for the first time in our history by giving opportunity for the investigation of murder charges in foreign part. The Government said that the Question was not even to be submitted to the judgment of the House, and that would, of course, involve an appeal from the judgment of the Government to that of the country.


said, it seemed to him that this Motion was one that was made absolutely without any justification whatever. They were discussing a measure that was admittedly of a novel and exceptional character, a measure which most seriously affected the character, reputation, and position of a number of Members of that House, and it claimed to be the foundation for a Commission which was to inquire into, he would not say "political" organizations, but organizations. It had a very wide scope, and was intended to inquire into every species of crime, and if ever there was a measure in which the justice and dignity of Parliament required that there should be full and adequate discussion, it was this Bill. It could not be said that any of the important Amendments upon it had been discussed at exorbitant length. It had always been in the power of the Government to move the closure, and they had tried to do so once, but the Chairman of Committees had determined against them. Therefore it could not be said that discussion hitherto had been unduly protracted. There were upon the Paper not a great number of Amendments, but some of them of importance, and it was monstrous to say that they could be amply discussed in the six or seven hours of that evening. The next Amendment raised a question whether the alleged forgery of letters should be one of the first issues; and the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) had one important Amendment as to sending Commissions abroad in criminal cases, a thing never heard of before. The last was a subject of the deepest importance and deserving of the fullest discussion. The ground for this Motion was not that there had been exhaustive discussion, but it was that the Government did not like the further discussion of the Bill. Up to the present the discussion had not been favourable to their conduct in reference to this measure; they were well aware that, whatever their majority might be in that House—and already their normal majority had been reduced by one-half—the effect of the discussion of the measure was not favourable to them in the country, and therefore they were determined they would have no more of it. They would therefore use their majority to stifle discussion. He protested against such conduct in the name of fair play and justice, which had not been the guiding principle of the Government in the prosecution of this measure. If discussion were unduly prolonged, if trivial and unimportant Amendments were proposed, the remedy of the closure was in the hands of the Government, and would be applied by the Chairman. But the Government were determined there should not be another day's discussion on the subject, and so they would sweep the Bill through by suspending the ordinary Parliamentary procedure. They might do it by their Party majority, but they would only throw additional discredit upon the measure, and make it the more obvious that they were actuated by political motives and used their majority to gag political opponents.

MR. STAVELEY HILL (Staffordshire, Kingswinford)

said, he for one felt a very strong objection to this Resolution. He had always said that the closure should only be applied in very exceptional cases, and he felt it ought not to be applied in this sweeping way in the case of a Bill of an absolutely novel character. The Bill was absolutely novel and without precedent, and it was sought to carry it by a procedure which in itself was also novel, and which he hoped would never be repeated. He wished to ask the Government whether they were to understand that when the clock struck one, and the Question then before the Committee had been disposed of, either by Division or otherwise, all the other clauses were to be passed without any opportunity of in any way amending a single word of them? More than one Amendment was required without which the Bill could not be worked properly; were they then to allow the measure to go through the House with these manifest imperfections in it simply because it was necessary to pass it hastily through the House?

MR. FINLAY&c.) (Inverness,

said, that if the Government desired, as the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt) had suggested, to make Party capital out of the Bill, they could desire nothing more than that such discussion as had gone on during the last two nights should be prolonged indefinitely. So far as Party warfare was concerned, the more speeches the right hon. Gentleman made such as he had been making during the last three days the better. But the Government had to consider something else—they had to consider the Business of the country. The prolonged discussion that had already taken place upon the measure had filled with amazement everyone who was not in the secrets of the opposition to the Bill. There was one practical observation that he ventured to make. There remained close upon seven hours before 1 o'clock, and he submitted that that time was ample for the discussion of any Amendment of any importance. They had already decided by far the greater number of points of principle that had been raised on the Amendments to the measure, and—with the utmost deference to the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby, who had expressed upon this, as he did on every subject, a most con- fident opinion—he (Mr. Finlay) submitted that the time that remained was ample, if properly utilized, for all the further discussion that was necessary. If, instead of proceeding to Business, speeches such as those to which they had listened continued to be made, he thought both the House and the country would know what to think of it.

SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN (Glasgow, Bridgeton)

said, it was an astonishing thing that a man of the personal courtesy and kindness of his hon. and learned Friend (Mr. Finlay), when he spoke upon this Bill, seemed quite unable to rise in his place without attributing to opponents motives apart from their real motives by 100 miles at least. What was the real cause of the delay that had taken place on this Bill? They had here a deliberative Assembly of 670 Members, very proud of being a deliberative Assembly, and very jealous of their rights as such. It did not require anyone to have been in Parliament as long as his hon. and learned Friend to have noticed that that House never really took pride or pleasure in a Bill all share whatever in the making or moulding of which was denied to the House as a deliberative Assembly. That was the real cause of such delay as had taken place. As far as he knew, there had been no discussion on any Amendment which was not of immense importance, and he asked hon. Members to compare the unimportant subjects on the discussion of which they had often spent Wednesdays, and usefully spent them as they believed, with these Amendments, which touched the very liberties of a large number of people. The hon. and learned Member for Inverness seemed to think that the remaining Amendments could be disposed of very rapidly. But what were they? First of all there was the Amendment as to the priority of the letters, and the importance of that priority had been acknowledged in all the impartial speeches which had been made on the other side of the House. There was next the immensely important Amendment on the question whether a Commission should be allowed to be held abroad to inquire into criminal charges. Then there was the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for North Longford, which would give him and his Friends the right of inspecting documents. There was the Amendment providing that the inquiry should be conducted in the same manner as the trial of a cause in the High Court of Justice. There was the Amendment requiring that the parties should specify their allegations, and there were also several other equally important Amendments, including one which involved the question whether the proceedings before the Commission ought to protect the proprietor of The Times from proceedings for libel. This Bill, which was really constituting a Court of High Commission of the greatest importance, charged with matters affecting the reputation of a great number of men, was now being passed through the House of Commons and discussed exactly as if it were another Criminal Law Amendment Bill. That Bill was directed against the liberties of Irishmen, and this Bill was directed against their reputations, and the same process which was used with regard to the passing of the Coercion Bill—the results of which the news from Ireland every week showed to be lamentable and pernicious in the highest degree—that same process was being used to carry this Bill, which would place the reputations of Irishmen at the mercy of their opponents, just as their liberties were at the present moment.

MR. BYRON REED (Bradford, E.)

said, that he looked upon the proposal before the House as supplying a very dangerous precedent, and he wished that it had not been found necessary to bring this Resolution forward. But he wished still more that the proceedings in Committee had been conducted in such a way as to warrant Members who thought as he did on that side of the House in giving effect to their general opinion by voting against the Government. Unfortunate as he considered the necessity of this procedure to be, he recognized that the Government had been forced to make the proposal by the manner in which the Bill had been dealt with in Committee during the three days of its discussion. They had only disposed of an infinitesimal number of Amendments, and those Amendments had been contested, he would not say with severity, but with a pertinacity of an almost unwarrantable kind. They had heard what he might describe as the painful loquacity of certain hon. Members opposite, the chief offenders being the hon. and learned Member for North Longford——


I was not here during two days of the discussions.


said, the hon. and learned Gentleman had made up for his absence on the third occasion. Among others who might be said to have helped by their loquacity to obstruct the progress of the Bill were the hon. Member for West Belfast——


I do not consider the hon. Member a judge of my conduct in any respect.


said, another hon. Member who might also be regarded as doing much to delay the measure was the bon. Member for the Scotland Division of Liverpool (Mr. T. P. O'Connor), and the occupants of the Front Opposition Bench had proved themselves, in the matter of prolix loquaciousness, to be very able backers of their Supporters below the Gangway. The proposal of the Government had been rendered necessary by the deliberate action of the Opposition, and therefore, although unwillingly, he should be compelled to vote for it.


said, that the hon. Member opposite who had just sat down had delivered the kind of speech with which the Committee had now become familiar. The hon. Member, like other rising Tories who hoped some day to enjoy the sweets of Office, had made a speech in which he had explained that his feelings and convictions all went one way, and that their votes would go the other. The speech of the hon. and learned Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay) he (Mr. Sexton) maintained, showed the Motion before the Committee to be in effect a Motion of censure upon the Chairman of Ways and Means. He, as an Irishman, heartily joined in the protest of his hon. and learned Friend against a Motion which, if it meant anything at all, amounted to an indirect and oblique declaration that the Chairman of Ways and Means had not performed his duty, and that for the remainder of the proceedings on the Bill he was not to be trusted. There were still some 40 Amendments on the Paper, and the time left for moving and debating each before one o'clock would be 10 minutes, leaving nothing for divisions. If ever there was a Bill which ought to be freely, fully, and unreservedly debated without the slightest attempt to check the utterance of the humblest Member, this was the Bill. It affected not only the characters of his hon. Friends and himself, but even something more than their very lives, because if this Commission was improperly used, it might inflict upon them a punishment worse than death. Whereas originally it was a Bill "offered" to his Party, it was now, it appeared, to be forced down their throats without debate. That being so, what were they to say with regard to the moral jurisdiction of a tribunal as arbitrary in its nature, as dark in relation to the course of its proceedings as any erected in mediœval ages by any despot of history? Would the Government be willing to accept the Amendments which had been accepted by Walter? Mr. Walter was not only the private familiar but the public instructor of the Government. Every morning showed in his paper an article in which, picking up the Amendments handed in the night before, he informed the Government what Amendments they might accept and what they must reject. He (Mr. Sexton) wanted to know whether the Government would ever give them the small mercy of accepting Amendments which had been accepted by their client? There were three reasons for the Motion. The first was that the Government, in view of the revelations and disclosures of the last few days, were afraid to face further debate lest there might be further disclosures, the suppression of debate being directly with the object of preventing the country, by examination in the House, from arriving at the bottom of the relations between the Government and the managers of The Times. The second reason was that the Government dared not allow the Amendments to be debated, because there were Amendments on the Paper which, if presented and debated, the Government could not reject. There was, for example, an Amendment in the name of the right hon Gentleman the Member for Newcastle-upon-Tyne (Mr. John Morley) providing that the Commission might have power to report from time to time. The object of that Amendment was that if the Commission arrived at the conclusion that the letters had been forged they should report upon that matter, as to which the country was most anxious, at the earliest convenient moment. The Government dared to evade that Amendment by the present Motion. And the last reason was that the Ministerialists wanted to get away to their rural sports. He would warn them that the working men of this country would come to their own conclusions with regard to a manœuvre which subordinated the character and position of 85 Members of the House and the interests of their constituents to the convenience of two score of Gentlemen who wished to leave their legislative duties and proceed to their sports on the 12th of August.


, in supporting the Motion, said, that though the Bill passed the second reading with the unanimous assent of hon. Gentlemen opposite, yet directly the House got into Committee there was hardly a single provision, hardly a single line, but was met by Amendments. It was soon discovered that hon. Members, while pretending to accept the Bill with tremendous alacrity, really disliked it more and more, and so it was met with the most ruthless opposition at every point. They had been three days in disposing of about five Amendments, and it was not to be forgotten that upon one day, Tuesday, so extreme was the measure of obstruction carried on that upon three separate occasions the Chairman of Committees refused to put Motions for Adjournment and for reporting Progress, because he considered they were an abuse of the process of the House. Surely, that was good primâ facie evidence of obstruction. Again, the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby (Sir William Harcourt)—who was always telling them there had been no obstruction—spoke no less than four times, repeating over and over again exactly the same arguments. If he went to the lower regions among the Party opposite he could give the House even worse instances. The right hon. Gentlemen the Member for Derby, a Privy Councillor, had indulged in this sort of opposition, and the francs tireurs below the Gangway had followed suit. Having regard to the Amendments they had moved, their acceptance of the Bill on the second reading must have been very insincere. The object of hon. Gentlemen below the Gangway seemed all along to be to narrow and destroy the Bill. The Amendments still remaining on the Paper manifested the same purpose. Thus, one proposed that there should be interim reports.


rose to Order. He wished to know whether the hon. Member was in order in discussing the Amendments still remaining to be considered?


said, he thought the hon. Baronet was exceeding proper limits in doing so.


said, he would not continue the subject; but he had only proposed to do what others had done.


again rose to Order, and called attention to this, as he alleged, disrespectful remark of the hon. Baronet in calling in question the ruling of the Chair.


said, he was sure the hon. Baronet was not doing anything of the kind. He understood the hon. Baronet to accept his ruling.


said, he certainly unreservedly accepted Mr. Speaker's ruling. The same arguments had been urged over and over again by hon. Gentlemen opposite, and it was quite clear that their object was to undermine and, if possible, get rid of the Bill.

MR. SYDNEY BUXTON (Tower Hamlets, Poplar)

said, the hon. Baronet had tried to make capital out of the fact that the second reading was accepted without a Division. But that was because they believed that the Government were prepared to meet them fairly on several vital points. This impression was strengthened by a speech delivered by the right hon. Gentleman the Member for West Birmingham (Mr. J. Chamberlain), who was regarded as practically a Member of the Government. The Amendments that had been moved were not frivolous Amendments; but, on the contrary, most important Amendments, which were aimed at bringing the text of the Bill into accordance with the statement of the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury when he introduced the Bill. The Bill was of such magnitude and importance that at least five or six nights should be devoted to the consideration in Committee of the clauses rather than have the Bill in haphazard fashion thrust down their throats. So far from the Chairman considering the discussion obstructive, he had refused on one occasion to put the closure when moved by the right hon. Gentleman the First Lord of the Treasury. The right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland (Mr. A. J. Balfour) had boasted that the Government had not changed one comma in this Bill; for his own part, he did not think that it should be a matter of boast to the Government that in a Bill of this nature and importance they had made no endeavour to meet the wishes of the minority in that House.


said, he would suggest as a compromise that the decision whether the debate had lasted long enough at 1 o'clock should be left in the hands of the Chairman of Committees. Speech after speech had been made from that side of the House directing the attention of right hon. Gentlemen opposite to particular Amendments which seemed to those on that side to be of considerable importance, and he thought that they might condescend to give some reply, and say whether or not they thought these Amendments ought to be accepted. He begged to move the insertion of the words "If the Chairman so think fit."

Amendment proposed, after the first word "That," to insert the words "if the Chairman so think fit."—(Mr. Maurice Healy.)


said, he was anxious that this discussion should close, because if this Motion was to be carried the sooner it was carried the better in the interests of that discussion which hon. Gentlemen opposite themselves wished. For that reason the Government had refrained from taking advantage of many tempting opportunities laid before them in this debate, and had listened in silence and with patience even to the attacks of the right hon. Gentleman the Member for Derby. He did not want, therefore, to prolong the debate by one unnecessary sentence. The Government could not accept the Amendment of the hon. Member for Cork (Mr. Maurice Healy). That Amendment would place a responsibility upon the Chairman from which they thought that that Gentleman would certainly and rightly shrink. No doubt the existing Rules did throw upon Mr. Speaker or upon the Chairman of Committees the responsibility of deciding in certain cases whether a particular Amendment had been discussed long enough or not. That responsibility had been complained of as being a greater burden than ought to be put upon the Speaker or the Chairman of Committees, but this proposal went much further; it was suggested that they should ask the Chairman to decide, not merely whether a particular point had been debated long enough, but to cast his eye back through each successive stage of the Bill and to determine the question whether the whole debate had lasted long enough. The Government thought that that responsibility should be taken by the House, and by the House alone. The Government were aware of the responsibility which they took upon themselves in making the proposal which they had made; they recognized the fact that every Government that made such a proposal did so at its peril, but it was for the country to judge. The Government believed, rightly or wrongly, that they were supported by public opinion, and it was for that reason and because they were the responsible guardians of the time of the House and those who had to make the arrangements by which the convenience of Members was best consulted, that they had taken upon themselves most reluctantly to make the Motion now before the House.

MR. W. E. GLADSTONE (Edinburgh, Mid Lothian)

said, that he had not spoken upon the Motion of the Government, not because he had too little, but because he had too much to say. In his opinion, if they were to use the Motion, as they were entitled, for the purpose of bringing under full Parliamentary review the most extraordinary series of transactions he had ever known they would roach 1 o'clock long before the legitimate debate on the subject would be exhausted. In these circumstances he did not wish to occupy the time of the House, and therefore he would avoid the main question. He must, however, say one passing word with regard to what had fallen from the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland. The right hon. Gentleman had said that the Government were supported by public opinion, as they on that side of the House believed that they were supported by it. As the right hon. Gentleman said so, he had no doubt that that was the right hon. Gentleman's opinion; but there was this difference between them—that while they on that side of the House showed great anxiety that the public opinion of the country should be tested, hon. Gentlemen opposite, notwithstanding the confidence which they professed in that public opinion, were very careful to avoid any disposition to test it, and through their organs reckoned upon the full period of seven years of Parliamentary life as the time during which they might enjoy immunity from any practical reference to the public judgment. With regard to the proposal of the hon. Member (Mr. Maurice Healy), they had objected, and they still objected, to the regulation of last year, placing the responsibility on the Speaker in the application of the closure, which they looked upon as nothing less than a public calamity. In these circumstances—though they had every confidence in the Chairman of Committees—yet he thought that the objections of the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary were good, and that they had no right to put this responsibility upon the Chairman. He ventured to express a hope that this proposal might be withdrawn.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question again proposed.


rose in his place, and claimed to move, "That the Question be now put;" but Mr. Speaker withheld his assent, and declined then to put that Question.

MR. ASQUITH (Fife, E.)

said, that having regard to the arguments used on that side of the House, and the extent to which they were shared by the independent Members on the opposite side, he was not surprised at the reticence of the Government. The Chairman would be obliged to put all the clauses, and none of the Amendments or new clauses. He did not think that the Government could consider it desirable that each and every Amendment should be swept away without discussion, and he therefore proposed to modify the Resolution by making it apply to the several Amendments and new clauses now printed on the Notice Paper, if not then disposed of. He hoped the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Ex- chequer would see his way to accept that proposal.

Amendment proposed, In line 5, to leave out the words "Questions, That any Clause then under consideration, and each remaining Clause of the Bill, stand part of the Bill," and insert the words "several Amendments and new Clauses now printed on the Notice Paper and not then disposed of,"—(Mr. Asquith,) —instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."


said, he could not accept the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member (Mr. Asquith), but he thought he could make an alternative proposal which would substantially meet the views of the hon. Member for Northampton (Mr. Bradlaugh) and other hon. Members. Of the Amendments on the Paper a very considerable number were of secondary importance. If the hon. and learned Member would withdraw his Amendment he would propose to introduce words to the effect that the Chairman should successively put forthwith from the Chair all the Amendments which might, in his judgment, be of the greatest importance. [Cries of "Oh!"] He would not press it in the face of opposition from hon. Members. He believed the Chairman of Committees would not object to this burden being placed upon him; if he had the slightest objection the Government would not urge it.


said, that this was nearly the proposal of the hon. Member below the Gangway to which the right hon. Gentleman the Chief Secretary for Ireland objected.


said, that he thought the proposal differed—though it did throw on the Chairman of Committees a burden which the original proposal of the Government did not—but the Government had no desire to stand by that of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer.


said, he thought the last proposal of the Government was the most astounding proposition ever made to Parliament. It was that the Chairman of Ways and Means, without having heard one syllable in favour of any Amendment, should pick out which Amendments in his judgment were important and sacrifice those which he thought were not. Such an innovation he most emphatically protested against. The Committee which sat on Procedure a few years ago had before it evidence from every foreign State which used the closure, and the question was put to them whether the closure had been complained of as having been abused or unduly used? In every single instance, if his memory served him, the answer came back that it had not been complained of as having been abused by the majority. Did the Government think, if they used the power they proposed that night, that it would not be complained of; and was it to be said that England, the mother of Parliaments, was the country in which the majority were least able to control themselves? If the closure was to be used in the unjustifiable manner now proposed, it would encourage minorities to use such powers as they still possessed in a manner which would not facilitate the despatch of Public Business.


said, he rejected the suggestion of the Government. He preferred, as a mercy to the House, that the Motion should be carried in the most offensive and naked manner, because it would prove a most useful precedent. The Government were insulting the Chairman of Committees by asking him to invite Members to divide upon Amendments, the arguments in support of which they had not heard.


said, he would not propose his Amendment.


said, that the Amendment proposed by the hon. and learned Member behind him (Mr. Asquith) was an Amendment which would have brought back the Motion of the Government to the exceptional Closure Rule passed in 1881, to enable very difficult and arduous work to be done in Parliament. It enabled the House, at all events, to give its opinion on the Amendments. Nothing could be worse than the new proposal of the right hon. Gentleman the Chancellor of the Exchequer. The only protection the Chairman had in superintending discussion was that his action should be absolutely apart from the wisdom or the importance of the Amendments. He believed with the hon. and learned Member for Inverness (Mr. Finlay) that the important Amendments remaining would have been soon discussed in a proper way. They had the Rule of Closure which would have enabled them to stop any frivolous Amendments. He believed the Bill would have been got through to-night, or at least in another day. To save one day the Government had proposed a Rule of the most drastic and indiscriminate character—it was a complete slaughter of all Amendments to the clauses without considering their importance. It was most unfortunate that that precedent had been made; and although he thought the Amendment of the hon. and learned Member for East Fife (Mr. Asquith) was much better than the extreme closure proposed by the Government, he could not vote for it, because it would be an admission from that side of the House that this extreme form of closure was justifiable on a Bill of this kind. To that he could not assent, as he considered the action of the Government was wholly unjustifiable, and formed a precedent of a most dangerous character to the restraint of free discussion.


said, he thought the Government would save time and trouble if they would say at once whether it was their intention to accept any of the Amendments on the Paper?


asked, whether the Government had withdrawn their Amendment, and whether they opposed that of his hon. and learned Friend?


having replied in affirmative to both questions,


said, he would withdraw his Amendment.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Main Question put.

The House divided:—Ayes 237; Noes 185: Majority 52.

Addison, J. E. W. Baring, T. C.
Aird, J. Barry, A. H. S.
Ambrose, W. Bartley, G. C. T.
Amherst, W. A. T. Barttelot, Sir W. B.
Anstruther, H. T. Bates, Sir E.
Ashmead-Bartlett, E. Bazley-White, J.
Baden-Powell, Sir G. S. Beach, right hon. Sir M. E. Hicks-
Bailey, Sir J. R.
Baird, J. G. A. Beadel, W. J.
Balfour, rt. hon. A. J. Beaumont, H. F.
Banes, Major G. E. Bective, Earl of
Barclay, J. W. Bentinck, rt. hn. G. C.
Baring, Viscount Bentinck, W. G. C,
Beresford, Lord C. W. De la Poer Fowler, Sir R. N.
Fraser, General C. C.
Bethell, Commander G. R. Fry, L.
Fulton, J. F.
Bigwood, J. Gardner, R. Richard-son-
Birkbeck, Sir E.
Blundell, Colonel H. B. H. Gent-Davis, R.
Giles, A.
Bolitho, T. B. Godson, A. F.
Bond, G. H. Goldsworthy, Major-General W. T.
Borthwick, Sir A.
Bridgeman, Col. hon. F. C. Gorst, Sir J. E.
Goschen, rt. hon. G. J.
Bristowe, T. L. Granby, Marquess of
Brodrick, hon. W. St. J. F. Gray, C. W.
Green, Sir E.
Brookfield, A. M. Grimston, Viscount
Brown, A. H. Grunter, Colonel R.
Bruce, Lord H. Hall, A. W.
Caine, W. S. Halsey, T. F.
Caldwell, J. Hamilton, right hon. Lord G. F.
Campbell, J. A.
Carmarthen, Marq. of Hamilton, Lord C. J.
Cavendish, Lord E. Hamilton, Lord E.
Chamberlain, rt. hn. J. Hamley, Gen. Sir E. B.
Chamberlain, R. Hanbury, R. W.
Chaplin, right hon. H. Hardcastle, F.
Charrington, S. Hartington, Marq. of
Clarke, Sir E. G. Hastings, G. W.
Cochrane-Baillie, hon. C. W. A. N. Havelock-Allan, Sir H. M.
Coddington, W. Heath, A. R.
Colomb, Sir J. C. R. Heathcote, Capt. J. H. Edwards-
Cooke, C. W. R.
Corbett, A. C. Herbert, hon. S.
Corbett, J. Hervey, Lord F.
Cranborne, Viscount Hill, right hon. Lord A. W.
Cross, H. S.
Crossley, Sir S. B. Hill, Colonel E. S.
Crossman, Gen. Sir W. Hill, A. S.
Cubitt, right hon. G. Hoare, E. B.
Currie, Sir D. Hobhouse, H.
Curzon, Viscount Houldsworth, Sir W. H.
Curzon, hon. G. N.
Darling, C. J. Howard, J.
Davenport, H. T. Hozier, J. H. C.
Davenport, W. B. Hughes, Colonel E.
De Lisle, E. J. L. M. P. Hughes-Hallett, Col. F. C.
Dixon-Hartland, F. D.
Duncan, Colonel F. Isaacs, L. H.
Dyke, rt. hn. Sir. W.H. Isaacson, F. W.
Ebrington, Viscount Jackson, W. L.
Edwards-Moss, T. C. Jarvis, A. W.
Egerton, hon. A. J. F. Johnston, W.
Elliot, hon. A. R. D. Kelly, J. R.
Ellis, Sir J. W. Kennaway, Sir J. H.
Elton, C. I. wart, Sir W. Kenrick, W.
Kenyon, hon. G. T.
Eyre, Colonel H. Ker, R. W. B.
Feilden, Lt.-Gen. R. J. Kerans, F. H.
Fellowes, A. E. Kimber, H.
Fergusson, right hon. Sir J. King, H. S.
Knightley, Sir R.
Field, Admiral E. Knowles, L.
Finlay, R. B. Kynoch, G.
Fisher, W. H. Lafone, A.
Fitzwilliam, hon. W. H. W. Lawrence, W. F.
Lea, T.
Fitz-Wygram, Gen. Sir F. W. Lechmere, Sir E. A. H.
Lees, E.
Folkestone, right hon. Viscount Legh, T. W.
Lethbridge, Sir R.
Forwood, A. B. Lewis, Sir C. E.
Lewisham, right hon. Viscount Robertson, J. P B.
Robinson, B.
Long, W. H. Ross, A. H.
Lowther, hon. W. Round, J.
Lowther, J. W. Royden, T. B.
Lubbock, Sir J. Saunderson, Colonel E. J.
Lymington, Viscount
Macartney, W. G. E. Sellar, A. C.
Macdonald, right hon. J. H. A. Shaw-Stewart, M. H.
Sidebottom, T. H.
Mackintosh, C. F. Sidebottom, W.
Maclean, F. W. Sinclair, W. P.
Maclean, J. M. Smith, A.
Madden, D. H. Spencer, J. E.
Matthews, rt. hn. H. Stanhope, rt. hon. E.
Mattinson, M. W. Stanley, E. J.
Maxwell, Sir H. E. Stokes, G. G.
Milvain, T. Swetenham, E.
More, R. J. Talbot, J. G.
Morrison, W. Tapling, T. K.
Moss, R. Taylor, F.
Mowbray, rt. hon. Sir J. R. Temple, Sir R.
Theobald, J.
Mowbray, R. G. C. Thorburn, W.
Mulholland, H. L. Tomlinson, W. E. M.
Muncaster, Lord Townsend, F.
Muntz, P. A. Trotter, Colonel H. J.
Murdoch, C. T. Tyler, Sir H. W.
Newark, Viscount Villiers, rt. hon. C. P.
Noble, W. Vincent, C. E. H.
Northcote, hon. Sir H. S. Waring, Colonel T.
Watson, J.
O'Neill, hon. R. T. Webster, Sir R. E.
Paget, Sir R. H. West, Colonel W. C.
Parker, hon. F. Weymouth, Viscount
Penton, Captain F. T. Wharton, J. L.
Plunket, rt. hon. D. R. Whitley, E.
Plunkett, hon. J. W. Wodehouse, E. R.
Pomfret, W. P. Wolmer, Viscount
Price, Captain G. E. Wood, N.
Raikes, rt. hon. H. C. Wortley, C. B. Stuart-
Rankin, J. Wright, H. S.
Rasch, Major F. C.
Reed, H. B. TELLERS.
Richardson, T. Douglas, A. Akers-
Ritchie, rt. hon. C. T. Walrond, Col. W. H.
Robertson, Sir W. T.
Abraham, W. (Glam.) Campbell, Sir G.
Abraham, W. (Limerick, W.) Carew, J. L.
Causton, R. K.
Allison, R. A. Chance, P. A.
Anderson, C. H. Channing, F. A.
Asher, A. Clancy, J. J.
Asquith, H. H. Clark, Dr. G. B.
Atherley-Jones, L. Cobb, H. P.
Balfour, Sir G. Colman, J. J.
Balfour, rt. hon. J. B. Conway, M.
Ballantine, W. H. W. Corbet, W. J.
Barbour, W. B. Cossham, H.
Barran, J. Cox, J. R.
Barry, J. Cozens-Hardy, H. H.
Biggar, J. G. Craven, J.
Bolton, J. C. Crawford, D.
Bolton, T. D. Cremer, W. R.
Broadhurst, H. Crilly, D.
Brown, A. L. Deasy, J.
Brunner, J. T. Dickson, T. A.
Bryce, J. Ellis, J.
Burt, T. Ellis, J. E.
Buxton, S. C. Ellis, T. E.
Byrne, G. M. Esmonde, Sir T. H. G.
Esslemont, P. O'Gorman Mahon, The
Evans, F. H. O'Hanlon, T.
Fenwick, C. O'Keeffe, F. A.
Ferguson, R. C. Munro- O'Kelly, J.
Finucane, J. Parker, C. S.
Firth, J. F. B. Parnell, C. S.
Fitzgerald, J. G. Paulton, J. M.
Flower, C. Philipps, J. W.
Flynn, J. C. Pickard, B.
Foley, P. J. Pickersgill, E. H.
Fowler, rt. hon. H. H. Picton, J. A.
Fox, Dr. J. F. Pinkerton, J.
Gaskell, C. G. Milnes- Playfair, rt. hon. Sir L.
Gilhooly, J. Plowden, Sir W. C.
Gill, T. P. Power, P. J.
Gladstone, rt. hn. W. E. Power, R.
Gladstone, H. J. Priestley, B.
Goldsmid, Sir J. Provand, A. D.
Gourley, E. T. Pugh, D.
Graham, R. C. Pyne, J. D.
Gully, W. C. Randell, D.
Haldane, R. B. Redmond, J. E.
Harcourt, rt. hon. Sir W. G. V. V. Redmond, W. H. K.
Reid, R. T.
Harrington, E. Rendel, S.
Harrington, T. C. Reynolds, W. J.
Harris, M. Roberts, J. B.
Hayden, L. P. Robertson, E.
Hayne, C. Seale- Roe, T.
Healy, M. Roscoe, Sir H. E.
Healy, T. M. Rowlands, J.
Holden, I. Rowntree, J.
Hooper, J. Sexton, T.
Hunter, W. A. Shaw, T.
Joicey, J. Sheehan, J. D.
Jordan, J. Sheehy, D.
Kenny, C. S. Sheil, E.
Kenny, J. E. Simon, Sir J.
Kenny, M. J. Sinclair, J.
Kilbride, D. Smith, S.
Labouchere, H. Spencer, hon. C. R.
Lalor, R. Stack, J.
Lawson, Sir W. Stanhope, hon. P. J.
Leamy, E. Stevenson, F. S.
Lefevre, rt. hn. G. J. S. Stewart, H.
Lewis, T. P. Stuart, J.
Macdonald, W. A. Sullivan, D.
MacInnes, M. Sullivan, T. D.
Mac Neill, J. G. S. Summers, W.
M'Cartan, M. Sutherland, A.
M'Carthy, J. Swinburne, Sir J.
M'Donald, P. Tanner, C. K.
M'Donald, Dr. R. Thomas, A.
M'Ewan, W. Thomas, D. A.
M'Kenna, Sir J. N. Trevelyan, right hon. Sir G. O.
M'Laren, W. S. B.
Mahony, P. Tuite, J.
Marum, E. M. Wallace, R.
Mayne, T. Warmington, C. M.
Molloy, B. C. Watt, H.
Morley, right hon. J. Wayman, T.
Mundella, rt. hon. A. J. Whitbread, S.
Will, J. S.
Murphy, W. M. Wilson, H. J.
Neville, R. Winterbotham, A. B.
Nolan, Colonel J. P. Woodall, W.
Nolan, J. Woodhead, J.
O'Brien, J. F. X. Wright, C.
O'Brien, P. J.
O'Brien, W. TELLERS.
O'Connor, J. Marjoribanks, rt. hon. E.
O'Connor, T. P.
O'Doherty, J. E. Morley, A.

Ordered, That at One o'clock a.m. on Friday 3rd August, if the Members of Parliament (Charges and Allegations) Bill be not previously reported from the Committee of the whole House, the Chairman shall put forthwith the Question, or Questions, on any Amendment or Motion already proposed from the Chair. He shall next proceed and successively put forthwith the Questions, That any Clause then under Consideration, and each remaining Clause in the Bill stand part of the Bill. After the Clauses are disposed of he shall forthwith report the Bill, as amended, to the House. From and after the passing of this Order no Motion, That the Chairman do leave the Chair, or do report Progress, shall be allowed.